Knives are considered to be one of the sturdiest self-defense weapons, from ancient times. With the evolution of man, weapons also evolved in terms of size, features, and utility. One of the most effective cutting tools is the automatic knife. Although small in size, automatic knives perform a plethora of activities that cannot be done with a big tool.
Automatic knives also known as switchblades, are useful for any situation where you wish to be able to open the knife one-handed, whether that be cutting something you’re holding with your other hand or whether you’re in a self-defense situation. If you are interested in pocket knives, you may read our detail guide on best pocket knives.
Automatic knives are invented in the 1850s and in the late 1950’s movies they were being used as weapons by fictional gangs and this led to the creation of “Switchable Act Of 1958”, in which these automatic knives are declared illegal in most states of America.
Are Automatic Knives Illegal?
In the USA, switchblades remain illegal to import from abroad or to purchase through interstate commerce since 1958.
These automatic knives are strictly prohibited to buy or carry in most parts of Europe too, with some exceptions.
In the UK, the folding type of switchblade is commonly referred to as a flick knife. And these knives with an automated opening system are almost impossible to acquire or carry legally; although they can legally be owned, it is illegal to manufacture, sell, hire, give, lend, or import such knives.
Despite federal laws, there are still few US knife making companies who build these automatic knives primarily for military and emergency personnel. Currently, some famous automatic knife manufacturers are Buck Knives, Benchmade, Spyderco, Kershaw Knives, Severtech, Dalton and some others.
How Automatic Knife Works
The most common type of automatic knife is the side-opening design, somewhat similar to the traditional manually-operated folding knives, but have a spring attached to the blade which is released when you press the activation button.
Side-opening knives typically have a safety mechanism that blocks the activation button from being pressed and thus prevent the knife from opening.
Due to the way the blade opens, the user of the automatic knife cannot grip the handle as firmly when activating the knife. Also, because of the way that the blade folds into the handle, automatic knives have limited blade shapes. If you are looking specifically for OTF knives, our friends at Knifeguides has it covered in detail.
Best Automatic knives That Are Available Right Now
1. Grand Way Spring Assisted Knife
Constructed from 440C stainless steel, this is one great little knife! The opening mechanism is outstanding and you would definitely love it!
It is a bit difficult to open with just your thumb, but once you see how well it opens with your forefinger on the opening mechanism, you won’t even worry about opening it with your thumb.
It is a great EDC knife to always have on you. Well made and feels great in your hand. And again, it opens so fast that you will not hesitate to use it for self-defense if needed.
It’s a very nice knife for the money. The liner lock on this knife is very comfortable to use and undoubtedly it’s one of this knife’s best features.
The safety feature is wonderful which makes it safer to carry every day without the risk of having it open unintentionally.
It’s perfect for medium-size hands, easy to carry, and works very well. The blade shape is just perfect to cover your, if not all, light to medium cutting tasks one is likely to run in to.
Because the knife is small and can be opened with one hand, this feature makes it a good defensive concealment knife. An attacker would never know of your knife until it was too late for him. The knife blade is extremely sharp so be careful.
2. Gerber Covert Knife, Serrated Edge
Gerber is a great knife manufacturer that has been making great knives for decades. This model is definitely one of the most versatile and reliable models that they make and is a worthy addition to any knife manufacturer’s collection.
This is a high-quality knife for a decent price. A very sharp blade that stays sharp for quite a while. Sturdy with some heft to it.
The assisted opening feature is decent, very well made, and no matter how often you deploy the blade it keeps a nice tight tolerance.
The serrated section of the blade is very sharp and unless you’re purposely trying to go out of your way in abusing the blade it should provide you with all the necessary lightening quick for years to come.
As for the size, this automatic knife has an overall length of 8.5 inches when open and 3.7 inches when closed. The compact size of this automatic knife when it’s closed makes it perfect for day-to-day use.
3. Anvil Bladesmiths – Bullshark G-10 8CR13 Knife
This knife is much more sturdy and you can really tell there is a high level of craftsmanship involved in making it. The blade is razor-sharp, absolutely no wobble while the blade is extended, everything is nice and tight and the blade opens smooth and very fast. The belt clip is very sturdy and secures well in the pocket.
There’s a good bit of heft to it which lends a very sturdy feel to the knife, yet it doesn’t feel fat or overweight when it’s in your pocket.
The assisted opening, which you can activate with either the flipper or studs on both sides of the blade, is quick, smooth and solid. The blade itself is very sharp and locks securely in place when it’s opened.
The G-10 scales feel great in the hand; very soft and grippy. The pocket clip is extremely durable and strong, plus it’s seated high up on the handle so there’s very little profile showing when it’s carried. The glass breaker and seatbelt/paracord cutter are also great features which transform it from just a pocket knife into a potentially life-saving tool.
With a color variety of black and silver, this automatic knife can appeal to all tastes. If you’re looking for a well-made automatic knife that you can rely on in any situation, we highly recommend this Anvil Bladesmiths model.
4. Kershaw Blur S30V Folding Pocket Knife
Kershaw consistently offers about the best bang-for-the-buck across a very nice assortment of folding knives.
This series of Kershaw knives was developed with the collaboration of famed knife designer, Ken Onion. In fact, the SpeedSafe assisted-open mechanism used in the Blur series is a Ken Onion patent.
The blade is perfectly centered when closed. There is no play when it’s opened. The blade came sharp, but it’s a toothy rather than polished sharp.
It’s perfectly fine for everyday tasks but some people might prefer to put a mirror edge on it. S30V is a good steel in this price range. The lock bar is at about 30% and feels solid. The thumb studs are perfectly placed and shaped for easy deployment.
The action is quick and intuitive. Blade holds a good edge, sharpening is very reasonable as there are no serrations to complicate the process.
It does take a bit more work to sharpen than some other blades, but it is worth the extra effort. You can put an extremely sharp edge on this knife, and it will stand up to daily use for much longer than any other blade.
You don’t need to buy a dozen knives for all of the possible applications. Find one that fits your pocket size, has an agreeable carry weight, and gives you some aesthetic pleasure visually.
5. Kershaw Clash Black Serrated Pocket Knife
The knife speaks for itself because it’s light but substantially built. The Speed Safe mechanism steals the show as an opening system because it’s simply the best one-handed opening of any folding knife out there that’s legal.
Very sharp out of the box! The ergonomics are absolutely amazing. You get a very solid grasp on the knife and the speed safe mechanism is awesome.
You can carry this knife daily. The flipper mechanism allows you to open one-handed even while wearing gloves. A little more effort to close but not so much. The clip is reverse so you can carry point up or down as you like. It stays sharp and holds an edge well enough.
It comes as sharp as you’d ever want it to be. Anything sharper would be a wire-edge and too fragile to live.
The knife measures 4 inches in the closed position and fits in your pocket easily. The knife has some weight to it, which is a good thing.
6. Benchmade – Barrage 583 Knife
This is a spring assisted model that combines impressive speed and strength in one complete package. It opens much quicker and faster than probably any pocket knife in this size.
This knife features a Valox handle (which is a light, but very strong material) and stainless steel liners for added strength and durability. It feels great in your hand and for a 3.6″ bladed knife it fits well in your pocket and doesn’t get in the way.
Its chiseled point is pretty thick, which really helps with the stability of the knife when having to make a strong, shallow cut with the front end of the blade. Oh, this knife is also sharp as hell. It is fitted with 154CM stainless steel blade, which boasts toughness and lasting sharpness.
The Axis Assist is excellent as well with two ways to open: Holding down the Axis lock near the blade and the slight flick of the wrist and pushing the knob on the blade toward the opening position. Both are solid as a rock.
The blade doesn’t wiggle or have any play during or after the deploy. Flicking the blade open gives satisfying and solid “thwack” when opened. It doesn’t ever feel like it could deploy while carrying, but just in case they’ve included a quick safety slider lock on the back ridge of the handle – Very cool.
You won’t go wrong buying this knife. Just beware the knife has serrations and straight edges making it somewhat different in how you use it compared with one that has just a curved blade.
They also have a lifetime warranty which shows that they stand behind their products. It is a great EDC, tactical use knife that you can carry anywhere. Highly recommended.
7. CRKT M16-14Z EDC Folding Pocket Knife
If you’ve specifically looked for a knife with a seat belt cutter and window punch combined… you’ve found it. There are few other knives that exist with both, but they are nowhere near as nice as this one.
The CRKT M16 comes in many varieties and usually equipped with a liner lock. Many different types of handle, blade shape, length, etc. This version was the 3.85″ tanto blade with a framelock.
Everything about this knife screams quality, from the textured grip to the sharp blade, to the fact that the blade itself is very easy, quick, and… well… fun to open. Instead of using the thumb studs (which are included but frankly useless), you simply flick your thumb against the quillon, and the blade flicks out at the speed of thought.
It’s not spring-assisted but after a little practice, you can deploy the blade so quickly that it might as well be a switchblade.
It comes with auto LAWKS system. If you don’t already know, that’s just an integrated feature that basically locks the blade firmly in place when opened, so that it can only be closed by pressing down on a little lever. That makes the blade a lot safer, but also slightly harder to close.
Most importantly, it’s a rescue tool and is completely usable without deploying the blade whatsoever. The belt cutter is built into the back of the blade and the glass breaker is in the base of the handle, so there’s no risk to anyone in use as a rescue tool and this can be carried as a knife, self defense and general use tool. It’s brilliant.
If you need a strong, sharp, dependable knife to use at work and play look no further.
8. SOG Folding Pocket Knife
The FF-11 is completely ambidextrous. The pocket clip is easy to move from one side of the handle to the other. The thumb assist is located in a narrow open space on the blade and allows for the assist to be relocated higher or lower on the blade for personal preference.
The assist can be reached from either side of the blade. The blade is located in a perfectly centered position, reducing and deterioration of the blade or handle from constant rubbing, and when closed the blade does not press into the “back wall” of the handle.
Knife is extremely durable, no play, great design features. Blade material is good, the length is appropriate and G10 Scaling makes the knife very grippy.
The large flared finger guard before blade starts is extremely important and well appreciated (seen knives without them cut their wielders fingers in fights as they slip), steel-lined core casing provides extremely strong interface without any flex.
The many small and large grip serrations throughout are very tough, pronounced and no safety issues at all.
Lockback is beyond solid and assuring, the coating is good, ergonomics are decent. Quality-wise, there is no slop at all which is awesome to see, plus blade sits centered.
So as long you remember it’s a pocket knife and not a hatchet and don’t misuse the blade you’ll love this knife.
9. CRKT M16-12 AutoLAWKS Combo Edge Knife
The Columbia River Knife & Tool company makes quality products at a fair price, and they have a lot of fine tools.
This knife is made from stainless steel. The particular stainless steel they use, unlike most stainless knives, will take and hold a good sharp edge. If you’re a sharpening fetishist who is constantly sharpening your knife so that you can shave with it, this isn’t the knife for you. If you want a knife for dealing with all the cutting tool needs in your normal daily life, this is perfect.
The best feature of all is the Carson Flipper. It’s that little nub visible on the blade side of the knife. When the knife is closed, you can open it with one hand, by placing your index finger on the Carson Flipper and flicking the knife open. It takes about 30 seconds of practice to perfect, and it’s smooth and positive. So, in one second, the knife is closed and the next second you are holding a blade. No muss, no fuss.
You could spend several hundred dollars on a fancy pocket knife. Don’t bother; get CRKT M16-Z and you’ll have a faithful companion tool until you wear it out twenty years from now.
10. Benchmade – 940 EDC Manual Open Folding Knife
Benchmade knives are well made and you pay for what you get. There is a reason why Benchmade has continued to produce this knife for the past 20 years.
The 940S is an excellent knife. This is an extremely light knife for everyday carry. Very well made. Perfect EDC knife. S30V steel has excellent edge retention and very good anti-corrosive properties.
The reverse tanto shape blade is just beautiful and functions perfectly for everyday tasks.
The tip is stronger than most knives due to the tanto shape.
The action with the axis lock is as good as u would ever want in a knife. The tip is strong and good for cutting zip ties.
The Handle is made up of aluminum with a thin purple titanium backspacer that makes the knife look even more stunning. All the edges have been smoothed over for comfort and the entire thing is extremely lightweight for a 3.4-inch blade.
The green anodized aluminum scale is extremely nice. The gimping and the purple anodized backspacer make this a very nice Gentleman’s EDC knife. The weight is almost nominal. There is absolutely no play in the blade and the blade centers up perfectly.
This is a tip-up carry EDC knife, left or right hand. It has a satin finish and the partially serrated blade.
This knife will last a lifetime with proper maintenance. Definitely a nice, very well constructed knife. It’s a knife that will be around for generations. Benchmade hits the mark with this blade!
Best Automatic Knives – The Ultimate Buying Guide
If you are looking to buy the best automatic knife, then the first thing you should consider is the purpose of this knife.
For what reason you are going to buy an automatic knife? Whether you are looking for a best automatic knife to perform your daily tasks or you are going to buy it for an outdoor purpose?
Is it something that you want to add to your collection or you want to keep it in the glove box of your car in case of any emergency?
So, it’s very important to understand the purpose of an automatic knife that you are going to buy. Because this knife came in various sizes and designs and if you already know the purpose of buying it, it will help you to choose the best one.
2. Blade Size:
Although it’s totally a personal preference which blade size you are comfortable to use. We think blade size should be determined by the tasks you intend to perform with the knife.
Normally, large size blades are designed for outdoor and heavy tasks, whereas, smaller ones are appropriate for your every day carry tasks.
3. Blade Style:
There are different styles of blades especially when it comes to automatic knives. And we highly recommend you to consider blade’s style too depending upon your needs.
So let’s discuss these styles….
Clip-point blades are great for everyday needs, but can also be used as a hunting knife.
Drop-point blades are usually found on survival or hunting knives, sometimes on some larger models of Swiss Army knives.
Needlepoint Blade is great for piercing different objects, but it’s very vulnerable and can break pretty easily due to its point edge.
4. Edge style:
Like other knives, automatic knives come in different edge styles.
Straight edge blades are typically meant for general knives and cutlery. Because straight edge cuts cleanly and sharpens easily and quickly. You can check our detail guide on best pocket knife sharpeners.
Fully serrated edges are intended to be used much like a small saw with a back-and-forth motion. Additionally, they’re great for cutting through belts and ropes, fabric and various other textured materials
Partially serrated edges contain properties of both straight and serrated edges and they are also used for general purposes.